By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4)– Republican Sen. Cory Gardner is pushing to get the federal government off the backs of marijuana businesses.
Gardner is teaming up with Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren on a bill that would exempt states like Colorado from federal law, giving dispensaries access to banking and opening the door to more research.
Gardner says pot legalization is a states’ rights issue, “This is not a legalization bill. I think that’s very important. This is an approach that allows the states to move forward. If a state like Oklahoma or Kansas or Nebraska chooses for themselves not to do this, they do not have to. The federal law remains the same. Nothing changes for them. But for states like Massachusetts and Colorado, this is the opportunity our founders intended. Allow states to be those laboratories of democracy.”
Andy Williams is a pioneer in the pot industry. His family opened one of the first dispensaries in the state and a decade later, he says, he’s still fighting for legitimacy.
“Medicine Man employs 130 people, takes care of their families, in essence. These people can’t get home loans. They can’t get car loans. Not only are our bank accounts shut down when our banks find out what we doing for a living, but our employees’ bank accounts are shut down because of that. It’s un-American for the federal government to get in the way of what really is a state’s right to govern itself. This is intrastate commerce,” said Williams.
The lack of access to banking has made the $2 billion a year pot industry cash only and a target for thieves.
“This is a public safety issue,” says Gardner.
But critics say the legislation would hurt, not help, public safety.
“Unfortunately, Senator Gardner is not listening to law enforcement,” says Jeff Hunt, head of the Centennial Institute.
He points to a letter from the National Sheriffs’ and Police Chiefs’ Associations as evidence. It urges Pres. Donald Trump to oppose the legislation, saying drug cartels are simply using legalization as cover.
“The industry itself has not been responsible, period,” says Hunt. “We have a series of problems – everything from black market, grey market to the fact that the marijuana industry is telling pregnant moms it’s okay to be consuming marijuana. If the marijuana industry wants to be treated like a legitimate industry, it needs to act like a legitimate industry.”
Williams says that the industry is here to stay, “It’s not going back in the bottle,” and that Gardner’s legislation would make it safer, “”This would be life changing for this industry, for the families that work in this industry.”
Coincidentally, Attorney General Jeff Sessions – a leading critic of pot legalization – will be in Denver Friday speaking at the Centennial Institute’s Western Conservative Summit. He’s threatened to enforce federal law if Congress doesn’t resolve the conflict with state laws. Forty-six states now have some form of pot legalization.